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Downing Street has failed to deny claims that staff at Number 10 regularly held drinking sessions throughout the pandemic, as further ‘partygate’ revelations continue to emerge.
It’s been alleged that ‘wine-time Fridays’ was a weekly event scheduled in to the online calendars of around 50 staff in Number 10, and took place regularly between 4.00pm and 7.00pm while the country remained under lockdown restrictions that forbade socialising with other households.
The latest scandal, which was first reported by the Mirror, was reportedly the product of a longstanding tradition that continued after Covid-19 restrictions were implemented in March 2020.
The gatherings are said to have sometimes gone on until midnight, with Johnson himself alleged to have attended ‘wine-time Fridays’ on a handful of occasions during lockdown, having encouraged his staff to ‘let off steam’.
The allegations come just days after Boris Johnson apologised to the British public for attending a garden party in Downing Street in May 2020, and after the prime minister was forced to issue an unprecedented apology to the Queen after it was revealed staff had held a party during lockdown the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral.
Following reports that the April 17 party saw a member of staff sent to a nearby shop with a suitcase to buy alcohol, the Mirror published a photo of a £142 drinks fridge being delivered to Number 10 on December 11, 2020, at a time when London was under restrictions banning indoor household mixing.
‘Boris used to stop by for a chat while they had a drink,’ one source told the Mirror of the prime minister’s involvement in the gatherings. ‘It was on the way up to his flat and the door was usually open. He knew about it and encouraged it.’
Johnson has not appeared in public since apologising in Parliament on Wednesday, January 12, with a spokesperson claiming he was isolating after a family member tested positive for Covid.
Number 10 did not deny the latest allegations, saying in a statement, ‘There is an ongoing investigation to establish the facts around the nature of gatherings, including attendance, setting and the purpose with reference to adherence to the guidance at the time.’
Sue Gray is expected to publish the findings of her investigation into parties held in Downing Street no earlier than next week.
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